Today’s train diet from sunny Trieste to rainy Vienna consisted in Friday’s issues of the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, “The Guardian”, and “The Economist”, swallowed with the most helpful assistance of half a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Occasional distractions by a stunningly green Styrian landscape and remarkably boring business talks of two elder Carinthian guys at the next table will not be credited with further verbiage.
“Wake up and realise this is world war III”, Thomas L. Friedman writes from Jerusalem (Guardian, courtesy of the New York Times). Took three gulps of wine to swallow. Parochial patriotic pathos is not something that goes down easily. Nor does the mindless reiteration of the we-are-in-a-war-mantra that has descended on us as a paramount example for how public discourse is used to legitimise drastic political measures. Don’t play that game, friends, fellows and countrymen. Friedman’s latest piece, “We must defeat those who support the God of hate”, breathes the same hysterical spirit, but at least starts out with “If this attack on America by an extensive terrorist cell is the equivalent of world war III …” and replaces war metaphors with cancer comparisons. Oh well. Must improvement always be only partial?
“Is the US now justified in demanding unstinting support? Yes, but that support cannot be unthinking, too.” Nice one. Goes down with two gulps, not for making it more palpable, but out of simple agreement straight from our political guts. The wine starts tasting better.
Better still: Blake Morrison writes true and important words about why these events in the US bother us, or at least people in the UK, while events in other parts of the world with an even higher death toll don’t, and why we remain transfixed by these images of the exploding WTC towers. Bothersome to yours truly over the past few days, spent in Italy: Why this orchestrated display of emotions in Europe? Why minutes of silence all over the place?
Turning to the German course of our media diet, there’s Heiko Flottau’s summary of what’s behind terrorism in the Arab world in historical terms, ranging from the fall of the Osman empire in 1918 up to the abduction of 16 tourists in Southern Yemen by the “Islamic Army Aden-Abyan” in 1998. Let’s not forget that the jihad had, as a concept, been buried in Muslim tradition for centuries and been revived only around 1979, folks, and keep buying that Turkish delight from the moustached shopkeeper of your confidence.
Perhaps some sour pickles to go with the wine? Robin Detje has only bitter words to say about Berlin theatre guru Claus Peymann’s decision to donate money to “Wallstreet victims”:
“Diese Großzügigkeit wird Eindruck machen. Man darf nicht wählerisch darin sein, wie man seine Betroffenheit zeigt; wenn sie nur hysterisch genug daher kommt, ist alles egal.”
From the enthusiastic agreement induced by white wine back to the rational bubbles of mineral water. Stefan Ulrich spoke to Bruno Simma, a Munich professor of international law, about legal aspects for possible US or Nato attacks on Afghanistan: here is his report. Interesting to know that there is NO legal justification for revenge. Military attacks on other countries, or locations in other countries, are sanctioned by international law only as defense measures. Retaliation has n o place in international law.
Furthermore, international law sanctions military action only when states are the aggressors, or when states have clearly employed the service of terrorists, as was invoked against Libya. When it comes to the interpretation of the pertinent regulations, however, opinions are roughly divided by the Atlantic Ocean as to how the pertinent regulations. Americans have pressed for allowing military action also in this case, and have thus bombed alleged terrorist camps and plants in Afghanistan and Sudan. Europeans have been reluctant to admit military action against other states when terrorists operate from those countries, but without clear support from their governments; instead, they have demanded that governments of such states are obliged to initiate legal proceedings against terrorists or extradite them. Simma believes that international law might have to change in these respects, redefining what counts as an “attack” against which military action can be pursued. Somewhere in that heavy diet were also buried considerations about whether the US would choose to make this an affair of international crime, and treat it in juridical terms, or an affair of military action, and what the implications of this decision would be. Oops, already digested, can’t find the link anymore.
Time for a digestif. Here is Ulrich Raulff about solidarity with and support of the USA on the part of Europe:
“Sicherlich ist dies nicht der Augenblick, Vorbehalte gegen Amerika und seine weltpolitische Rolle anzumelden. Große Krisen führen notgedrungen zur Entdifferenzierung von Argumenten. Die Frage an die Europäer Â– nicht an die traumatisierten Amerikaner! Â– ist nur, wie unterkomplex sie denken wollen. Mit einer binären Logik von Gut und Böse, Freund und Feind, ist niemandem gedient. Am Ende könnte die Freiheit, selbst zu denken und auf seinen Differenzen zu beharren, das Gut sein, das es am nachdrücklichsten zu verteidigen gilt. Und der wahre Inbegriff der Â„westlichen KulturÂ“. Besonnen am Ufer zu stehen, wenn sich schon alles lemminghaft in die Boote wirft, ist eine westliche Vorstellung von Freiheit: die älteste.”
The word “unterkomplex” (“under-complex”) might well make history.